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Book Overload

08th October 2009

The stack of books on my desk, waiting to be reviewed, is insurmountable.  I will never get to them all.  So for the sake of time, I need to do a combo post.  Here are the books I’ve been reading the past few weeks.  Most of them have been fantastic:

The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf–Two young girls are missing in the woods.  Told through multiple perspectives, the families work to find their girls, and one of the girls, Callie, works to regain her voice.  I had a hard time putting this one down.

Day After Night by Anita Diamant–A fictional account of the October 1945 rescue of Jewish detainees from the Atlit internment camp in Israel.  A grim reminder that the plight of the Jews didn’t end with the surrender of Germany.

The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam–The autobiographical account of Somaly Mam, who was sold into prostitution in Cambodia as a young girl, was able to escape, and returned to help other girls.  An amazing and heartbreaking story that continues today.

While I’m Falling by Laura Moriarty–A college student and her mom try to figure life out.  I love the way Moriarty writes about mother-daughter relationships.

Blood on the River: James Town 1607 by Elisa Carbone–A fictional account of Samuel Collier, page to Captain John Smith and his journey to Jamestown.  I read this after having visited Jamestown Settlement.  The book brings the familiar story to life.

The Last Book in the Universe by Rodman Philbrick–I can’t believe I didn’t discover this book earlier!  A love of reading and writing saves a dystopic civilization.  Great book.

Lost and Found by Andrew Clements–Twin brothers take turns going to school, and in the process, discover who they are as individuals.  Not my favorite by Clements, but well done nonetheless.

Shackleton’s Stowaway by Victoria McKernan–One of the most amazing adventure stories I’ve ever read, based on the real journey made by Ernest Shackleton and his crew as they attempted to cross the Antarctic continent in 1914.  Highly recommended.

In the spirit of Frindle, Clements again writes about a student who thinks out of the box. At Dave and Lynsey’s school, the 5th grade boys and girls don’t get along. When Dave challenges Lynsey to a contest, the fight is on: boys vs girls. Whichever group speaks the fewest number of words in two days is the winner. It seems like a simple enough contest, but what the boys, the girls and the teachers learn about themselves and each other in the following two days surprises everyone. A definite must read for 5th graders, their parents and teachers.

Things Hoped ForGwen lives in New York City with her grandfather. She needs to focus on practicing her violin and preparing for her auditions to 3 top music schools. But how can she focus when her grandfather has disappeared, her great-uncle won’t leave her alone, and her new friend Robert has a strange history that seems to have caught up with him.

This book is a companion to Things Not Seen, which I haven’t read. However, I still enjoyed the story, and its message of self-sacrifice and love is refreshing.

Another good book by Clements, focusing on the teacher/student relationship. Not as good as Frindle, but still very entertaining. Mark and his teacher, Mr. Maxwell, get off to the wrong start in school, and it only gets worse once they arrive at the annual 5th grade “Week in the Woods” trip.

A Week in the WoodsThe characteristic of Clements’ writing that I most enjoy is the way he explains what both the students and the teacher are thinking. As a reader, I really understand both points of view, and so understand why all the characters are acting the way they do.

FrindleThis book was wonderful! Nicholas Allen is a fifth grader who has numerous great ideas to make school more exciting. His newest idea seemed fairly tame, but caused quite an uproar. Inspired by his teacher, Nicholas decides to make up a new word. The consequences are greater than anyone imagined.

While some books make me feel guilty as a teacher (One Child) this book was inspirational. Nicholas’ teacher, Mrs. Granger, challenges her students even when they complain, but is also completely supportive of their efforts. I hope that as a teacher, I can be as influential to my students as Mrs. Granger was to Nicholas.