Forget Me Not

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Forget Me Not (hardcover)

by Ellie Terry

AR Level 4.1, 3 points

 

In Forget Me Not, Calliope is an eighth grade girl with Tourettes syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes her to make sounds and movements that she doesn’t do willingly, and this causes her to be embarrassed and pull out her hair.  She also has low self esteem and not many friends.  Compounding this is the fact that her mom can’t go without a boyfriend, but every time she breaks up with one, she packs Calliope into their Bug and they move to another city.  Calliope has been to 10 schools, but this time is different, because she meets Jinsong, a boy in her building who secretly likes her, despite the fact that he’s popular and his friends make fun of Calli.  Jinsong has to find the courage to come forward with his feelings.  Unfortunately, he wrestles with his own disappointment in himself when he fails to defend her.  The unlikely couple then has to face the possibility of never seeing each other again when Calli’s mom runs off and gets married.

What I liked about this book was that it highlighted a disorder that people have heard of, but aren’t really familiar with.  The reputation of people with Tourettes is that they will say bad words or get violent, but that isn’t everyone.  Calliope made sounds and hurt herself, and had to eat in a certain way, but the book showed that they were impulses she couldn’t control.  Hopefully this book will serve to educate others, who will then be more understanding and tolerant.

What I didn’t like about this book was Jinsong.  I understand as an eighth grade boy, having a friend like Calliope would be embarrassing, and could damage his reputation.  As an adult, I wanted to yell at him and tell him he was a horrible person.

Book 1 of 40

*Would have been book 20 of 20 for my summer reading goal had I finished it on time!  Unfortunately, this first week of school (and the weekend before) is crazy busy, so I kept falling asleep when I tried to read before bed.

Flat Out Love

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Flat-Out Love (ebook)

by Jessica Park

 

Flat-Out Love is super cute!  It’s that love story genre that isn’t always my first choice, but I usually enjoy the books when I read them.  Julie Seagle is a college freshman in Boston, a city she’s completely unfamiliar with.  She finds herself homeless, duped by a fake Craigslist ad, but her mom’s college roommate comes to her rescue and lets her stay in their home with Celeste and Matt, her two children.  Matt is a geeky college student, and Celeste is a “different” eighth grade girl.  There is also a mysterious brother named Finn who isn’t around, but Julie has a Facebook romance with him.  Their mother Erin and father Roger are absentee parents, being busy with their careers, so Matt is left to take care of Celeste, including carting around Flat Finn, a cardboard cutout of Finn.  Julie steps in to be Celeste’s friend, take some of the load off of Matt, and help Celeste fit in and be a little less strange.  Of course, there is love and everything hits the fan.  This is also a bit of a mystery (slightly predictable), but it was a fun read, and engaging until the end.

What I liked about this book was the romance, of course.  Without the romance, I’m not sure the storyline would have been nearly as engaging.  A mysterious brother?  Drunken phone calls?  A nerdy but handsome brother who goes out of his way to be a knight in shining armor?  It has everything.

What I didn’t like about this book was the shocker with Finn.  That was upsetting.  Predictable, but upsetting none the less.  I am not sure how I felt about his story.  That’s all I can say without giving away too much.

Book 19 of summer 2017!

 

Wolf Hollow

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Wolf Hollow (audiobook)

by Lauren Wolk

AR Level 4.9, 9 points

 

Wolf Hollow is the second book I’ve read by Lauren Wolk, although I liked Beyond the Bright Sea better.  Both are mysteries, but this one seemed to have less action.  It follows Annabelle, an almost 12 year old girl living in a farming town during World War II.  Annabelle is an average girl, but is full of grit and compassion, except for when it comes to Betty, the school bully.  Betty is relentless when it comes to bullying Annabelle and her brothers, but when she throws a rock that hits Annabelle’s friend in the eye (causing her to lose the eye), Annabelle can’t stay quiet, especially when Betty blames a local strange homeless man, Toby.  Toby soon has to go into hiding when Betty goes missing, but Annabelle is certain Toby didn’t take Betty.  She has to prove Toby’s innocence while protecting him from being found.

What I liked about this book was that it got me emotionally involved.  First of all, I really had a lot of questions that needed to be answered.  I needed to know where Betty was, and I was anxious to find out what would happen with Toby.  I had to see this story through to the end, even if there were slow parts.

What I didn’t like about this book was how many slow parts there were.  Oh my goodness… If I had been reading and not listening to the audiobook, I might have put this book down.  While it is really well-written and a great example of small moments, it is like an Oscar movie, where I can see why it won an award (Newbery Honor), but it didn’t keep me entertained.  It was almost artsy.

Book 18 of summer 2017!

Refugee

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Refugee (hardcover)

by Alan Gratz

 

It isn’t often that I preorder books.  Okay, that was a lie.  It isn’t often that I preorder books for ME to read.  I usually get them because they’re by popular authors (like Stuart Gibbs or Kwame Alexander) or because my daughter loves the book (like The Owl Diaries series).  I preordered Refugee, because it was in my Twitter feed for several solid months straight, meaning before it was even out, people were reading it and raving about it.  In my quest to read every single Newbery contender, I figured I’d order it before I forgot about it.  Oh my gosh, you guys.  You have to read this.  I’m not sure if it’s a Newbery contender (those tend to be like Oscar movies where you finish and you aren’t sure if you liked it or not, or you’re not sure if they were written for children or adults), but this is a must-read if you live on planet Earth.

Refugee follows the stories of 3 refugee children, all 11-13 years old, during different time periods.  Josef is a Jewish child living in Germany, when his father is taken by the Nazis and put into a concentration camp.  He is released, and the family reunites to board the St. Louis and said across the Atlantic in hopes of gaining entrance to Cuba as refugees.  Fast forward to 1994, and you’ll meet Isabel, a Cuban girl living in poverty under Fidel Castro’s reign.  She, with her family and neighbors, set out in a homemade “boat” to get to Miami after Castro says they are free to leave without being put into jail.  They face sharks, weather, a cargo ship, and several health issues that put their trip in jeopardy.  Our third story is Mahmoud, a Syrian boy living in Aleppo.  He leaves Syria and travels across the Mediterranean Sea to try to reach Germany with his parents, younger brother, and baby sister.  Each of these three refugee children have a long, tough journey, and lose a loved one along the way.  We find out later that their three stories are connected, and that although they’re living during different times, their struggles are similar, and their goals are the same- to find a new, safe place to live without fear of living in terror.

What I liked about this book… when I first started it, I thought it was interesting learning about their backgrounds and living conditions.  I enjoy historical fiction.  But I was quickly sucked into their stories, and I was rooting for them.  When Isabel was just yards away from the shore, the tears began, and continued through the end of the story.  It is a very emotional, powerful, and REAL book that needs to be in the hands of my students.  The refugee crisis isn’t something we’re hearing about on tv with the war in Syria.  It has been going on all throughout history, and this book brings that to the reader’s attention.  He could write Refugee part 2 and include refugees from Vietnam or Cambodia, Korea, the Kurds, the Christians in Muslim countries, etc.  There will always be refugees as long as there are wars.

What I didn’t like about this book… I can’t really think of anything.  It was engaging from beginning to end, and while heartbreaking, it is necessary.

Book 17 of summer 2017!

Restart

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Restart (ebook)

by Gordon Korman

AR Level 5.1, 9 points

 

Imagine coming out of a coma and learning you were the most hated, feared, and worshipped person at school.  Chase Ambrose fell off a roof, and when he woke up, he’s horrified to learn that he, the star quarterback, used to beat people up, break the law, steal, tease, and it got so bad, one kid even moved to a boarding school.  Chase, who had a serious head injury, now wants to change his life.  He enjoys spending time with the elderly in a retirement home, and makes friends with an old war hero.  He joins the video club, despite his former friends making fun of him and his new friends.  Chase is put into several situations that prove while he has changed, he is still not perfect.  He is, however, taking advantage of his second chance, as though he has gotten a “restart” in life.

What I liked about this book was that it was told from multiple perspectives, but it didn’t repeat the same situations.  For example, if something happened through Chase’s perspective, the story picked up from someone else’s POV after that situation.  There was no overlap in narration.  I, as an adult, felt for Chase’s character, so I’m sure that students will also be able to relate to either being bullied or the remorse of being the bully themselves.  I think it has a good message.

What I didn’t like about this book was that his friends didn’t get what was coming to them.  It bothered me that his friends were so awful, yet Chase kept his mouth shut and didn’t let them get what was coming to them.  It was kind of hard to believe that 13 year olds could be that evil without getting themselves into more trouble that they did.  Surely kids with that kind of record get caught.  That may be my thinking as a teacher and an adult.  I’m sure it’s more believable to child readers.

Book 16 of summer 2017!

Disrupting Thinking

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Disrupting Thinking (paperback)

by Kylene Beers & Robert E. Probst

 

Disrupting Thinking got so much buzz on Twitter and in professional learning communities, I had to add it to my summer reading list.  I bought it over Spring Break, but saved it for summer since I knew it would be a lot to take in.  There were quotes and thoughts posted all over, and someone even said they threw the book across the room when they read how some kids were treated in schools.  So, my expectations were high.

The book is divided into 3 sections: The Readers We Want, The Framework We Use, and The Changes We Must Embrace.  I found the first third to be a little dry.  The second third was okay, and the last third was where I found the bulk of my “ahas” and “yeses!”  A lot of it made me uncomfortable, because I saw there were things I did that I shouldn’t, and things I know people around me do.

There are a LOT of things I could write about, but here are my top 5 “take aways” from Disrupting Thinking (in no particular order).  Remember, every reader/teacher is different, and different things affect us depending on where we teach, what we already do, and what our personal teaching philosophies and goals are.

1.  The BHH Framework  This is something I will implement immediately, like the first day of school!  BHH stands for in the Book, in your Head, and in your Heart.  I’m posting an anchor chart below so you can see the questions associated with each letter.  I loved that the authors included transcripts of recorded conversations between children about the book they read together to show the impact of the BHH strategy.  I appreciated that they shared a primary, upper, and middle school example, because while the depth of conversations are different at each level, they’re still impactful.

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from the book

2.  Silent Reading doesn’t improve test scores!  Have you heard that?  I heard it a few years ago, but ignored it.  So as it turns out, that’s only true if the silent reading is UNSUPERVISED.  Instead, the reading should be FOCUSED.  If the teacher is giving mini lessons, having conversations with the reader, and expecting the reader to be involved in the reading, then the results are opposite.  That means that as the teacher, it is not time for me to grade papers, organize my desk, answer emails, or pick up my own book.  I need to engage with my students about their books.  Oh, and more importantly, give them CHOICE!

3.  Doing things because we’ve always done them.  Spelling tests, for example.  We ask students to memorize a list of words, because we did the same thing when we were in school.  Round Robin and Popcorn Reading – I HATED that when I was younger!  I was nodding my head to many of these.  And you know what?  I’m guilty of a lot of the examples.  I do many of these practices because it’s just a practice, not necessarily a best practice.  This is where things got uncomfortable for me as a teacher.

4.  Best Practices Chart  I liked this chart.  I want to refer back to it often to make sure I’m doing the items on the chart.  We also have to be wary about “best practices” and figure out what makes them BEST.  Is there actual research, or is it just a common practice (see #3 above).

5.  Children receiving less because of “differentiation.”  The book pointed out that differentiation that results in a diminished educational experience for some is a form of segregation.  Ugh.  So the 4-5-6 “intervention” class I taught many years ago and prevented kids from participating in the general curriculum with their peers was hurtful!  I an struggling, because I have the top 1/3 of the grade level in a “GATE” class (with only a few identified students).  That means that my 34ish students are getting a different experience than the other 2/3 of the grade level.  However, I have to remind myself that they are receiving this because I am their teacher, not because they are GATE.  We used to be favored by our principal and receive extra benefits, but not anymore.  Equity for all, regardless of how high or low performing students are!

Book 15 of summer 2017!

Love & Gelato

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Love & Gelato (audiobook)

by Jenna Evans Welch

 

Love & Gelato starts with Carolina (Lina) and her mother, Hadley Emerson, who is dying of cancer.  Once she passes, Lina goes to Italy to spend the summer with the dad she never knew she had at her mother’s request.  Lina starts off resentful, but when she’s given her mother’s journal from when her mother went to school in Italy, Lina learns more about her mother’s past, her parents, and who she is.  While she’s making these discoveries, she becomes close friends with a boy named Ren who takes her to the places her mom wrote about in the journal, and they solve a mystery together while falling in love.

What I liked about this book was that it mixed up romance and mystery.  I don’t normally binge-listen to an audiobook, but I finished this in basically 2, maybe 3 days.  It was light, fun, and perfect summer reading.  I also appreciated that there was nothing inappropriate about it!  There was some kissing and a boy who wanted more than kissing, but there was no sex or talk of sex or violence.  That means I won’t freak out if one of my students reads it.

What I didn’t like about this book was maybe an audiobook thing.  It was a little hard for me to tell when Lina was speaking and when she was reading her mom’s journal.  I’m not sure what the book looked like (it may have been a different font), but as an audiobook, it was a little confusing if I wasn’t paying close attention.

Book 14 of summer 2017!