Flush

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Flush (paperback)

by Carl Hiaasen

AR Level 5.0, 9 points

Did you ever read Hoot?  It was a Newbery Award winner awhile back.  It is about a boy who was upset over burrowing owl homes being destroyed to build something.  I read that book, because it was about owls, and I love owls.  After reading Flush and then looking up Hiaasen’s other books, I realized he writes about conservation and being environmentally aware.  It is a great way to appeal to and inform our youth, because they are more likely to learn from a book or watch a movie (Hoot was made into a movie) than to listen to a teacher talking about it.  I am glad someone is using interesting literature to educate our children in this way.

Flush is about a casino boat that is dumping its waste into the marina.  The waste then pollutes the beaches and surrounding waters, choking wildlife and making it unsafe for children to swim in the water.  This takes place in the Florida Keys, where there are manatees, sharks, loggerhead turtles, fish, and numerous other sea creatures.  Noah is a sixth grade boy whose dad is adamant about shutting down this casino boat for the sake of the environment, to the point of sinking it and getting himself thrown into jail.  Noah then decides to take matters into his own hands and find a way for the authorities to see that the boat is in fact guilty, and his dad isn’t just crazy or making it up.

What I liked about this book wasn’t just that it raises awareness of pollution and the consequences of dumping, but it also very vividly describes the Florida Keys.  I want to now go and visit.  The talk of mangroves, the green flash at sunset, and numerous fish and wildlife made Florida seem like an appealing place to vacation, as long as there are no casino boats flushing their toilets into the ocean.

What I didn’t like about this book was that it had some slow parts.  It was overall a good book, but there were times where I put it down and didn’t want to pick it up right away.  I decided that it had been long enough, and I just picked it up and finished it in one sitting.  It was also a bit predictable, although that can also be a good thing for young readers.

Book 5 of 40 (year 2)

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Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!

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Good Masters!  Sweet Ladies!  Voices from a Medieval Village (paperback)

by Laura Amy Schlitz

AR Level 5.6, 2 points

This is another Engage New York exemplar text that I promised (myself) I’d read.  I ordered all 3 of the poetry books from one of the modules, and this is the main one.  I have officially decided I want to teach that poetry unit, which means I need a class set of these books.  I really enjoyed this book, even though it was, at times, tough to get through.

This book is was written by a school librarian, so it was written with a specific audience in mind.  She tells the stories of several tweens in a medieval English village from first person point of view, and it is all in the form of a poem.  Each account can, and perhaps is meant to be, read aloud.  I can see a performance of this book happening on an elementary or junior high campus somewhere.  The characters are all residents of a particular (but generic) village.  We hear from the sons and daughters of a blacksmith, doctor, tanner, sniggler, merchant, etc.  We also hear about a lord’s daughter getting her dress ruined by having mud thrown at her, and then the mud slinger’s account.  I would teach perspective (and multiple perspectives) while reading this book.

What I liked about this book… well, first of all, I love the 1-2 page background pages so we as readers understand the context better.  Some examples of the background needed to understand the book would be the crusades, role of Jews in medieval society, and the significance of falconry.  I, personally, haven’t read much from a medieval village, so these background pages really helped me.  In addition, there are footnotes.  For each account, there are words the reader needs to know in order to understand the poem and role of the character.  This book is very user-friendly!

What I didn’t like about this book was that it got a little dry at times.  There were some sections I had to read multiple times.  It’s not written in Old English, but it also isn’t written in a way we are generally used to reading.  However, I cannot think of any other complaints.  It was a very honest account of life in a medieval village.

Book 46 of 52

The Lightning Thief

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Percy Jackson and the Olympians:  The Lightning Thief (paperback)

by Rick Riordan

AR Level 4.7, 13 points

I have learned a similar lesson repeatedly over the last year:  do not judge a book by it’s cover.  I was not planning on reading this series.  Yes, I love Greek mythology.  And yes, Harry Potter turned out to be an epic series, even though magic wasn’t really my “thing.”  I assumed Divergent was overrated, and clearly, it was something I enjoyed.  I should just stop saying no to these books, and assume they’re popular for a reason!

So I decided to read The Lightning Thief, because I’m on an Engage NY kick.  I am going to attempt to teach using this newish curriculum next year, and I find it’s always best to read the books BEFORE reading them with the class.  Otherwise, I find myself scrambling and asking my students, “What do YOU think?” or telling them to “Find evidence in the book to prove your answer” because I have no idea, since I came in unprepared.  I kind of feel like that’s how my entire school year has been, my first official year teaching just common core.  But that’s a different story.

This is the story of Percy Jackson, a sixth grade boy with ADHD and dyslexia.  He attends a boarding school for delinquents.  We learn quickly that he is different and sees creatures that do not exist in the mortal world.  He has a best friend and a supportive teacher, and he discovers they are “in” on a secret that involves him.  I will not spoil the story, but Percy Jackson learns who he is because of who his mysterious father is.  He goes on a hero’s quest to save mankind from World War III.  The story is somewhat predictable (probably because it’s written at a 4.7 grade level), but it is engaging nonetheless.

What I liked loved about this book was that Greek mythology slapped you in the face at least 3 times per page.  I mean this in the most pleasant way possible.  I love Greek mythology and come with some background, but a person doesn’t need to know much at all in the beginning to come out an expert.  There were so many descriptions, from Hades’s clothing to the weapons of the gods, that I wondered what was really from mythology and what was from Riordan’s imagination!  Now I understand why my bookworms schooled ME when I taught a “Greek Mythology: 101” unit back in August.

What I didn’t like about this book was that it was a little too predictable.  At times, I forgot if I was reading Percy Jackson or Harry Potter.  The plot lines are way too similar.  I am not sure if that is such a bad thing, but I am not amped to jump into book 2 today.  I will, however, start book 2 later this week, because it is Spring Break, after all!

Book 44 of 52

Technically, It’s Not My Fault

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Technically, It’s Not My Fault (paperback)

by John Grandits

AR Level 3.4, 1 point

Okay,Technically, It’s Not My Fault was funnier than Blue Lipstick.  It’s told from Jessie’s little brother Robert’s point of view.  He is a typical little brother who enjoys annoying his sister.  He is curious and that gets him into trouble.  What I appreciate about him is he’s a smart ass, and that is a sign of intelligence.  It is the same format (concrete poetry), and it follows several of Robert’s escapades.  We see into the head of an eleven year old boy, and that is something my students would appreciate.

What I liked about this book was that it made me literally laugh out loud.  I had to hand the book to my husband to read the funny pages.  Thank you letter with footnotes?  My favorite.  A poem representing burps and farts?  Hilarious.  If this isn’t engaging, i don’t know what is.

What I didn’t like about this book was the headache thing again.  I had to keep twisting and turning the book.  I really can’t complain, though, because it was a great book!

Book 43 of 52

Blue Lipstick Concrete Poems

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Blue Lipstick (paperback)

by John Grandits

AR Level 3.5, 1 point

When it comes to literature I choose, it is usually a Newbery winner, a favorite author, a recommendation from a student or a friend, etc.  However, I never thought I’d really enjoy an assigned Common Core exemplar text.  I decided to look into Engage New York to teach language arts next year, and I’m struggling to find ways to get class sets of novels.  I decided to focus on a unit/module, so I chose the unit with poetry since April is poetry month.  This is the first book I read, and I really enjoyed it!

Normally when I’ve read books of poetry, they’re books of separate poems by the same author on various subjects, or poems on the same subject by different authors.  Blue Lipstick is a book of poetry, all from the point of view of same character.  Jessie is a high school student who has normal thoughts and feelings.  She doesn’t get along with her younger brother, her parents underestimate her maturity, she hates her English teacher, and she hates cheerleaders.  Each poem lets us into Jessie’s world by showing how she feels about something new, and everything is totally relatable… as a teenager.  It’s been awhile since I fit that category, but if memory serves…

What I liked about this book was the way all of the poems were written with the same voice but had a different layout.  It is a book of concrete poems.  There is a poem about volleyball, and the layout of the words looks like the invisible path of a volleyball going over a net.  The poem about the highs and lows of her day is in the shape of a graph, and the poem ends with her saying she had to make a graph for math, which made it even more ironic.  It is a very fun (and very quick) book to read!

What I didn’t like about this book was that I got kind of a headache from moving the book up and down and turning it to read the pages.  It isn’t a traditional left-to-right, top-to-bottom kind of read.  Or maybe I’m just getting old.  But if that’s my only complaint, then you know you should go and pick up your own copy!

Book 42 of 52