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One of the best new juvenile fiction books I’ve read in a long time.  The themes remind me a lot of Andrew Clements’ books.  Students who have enjoyed Clements’ many wonderful stories, will certainly enjoy Buyea’s first novel.

Mr. Terupt is a first year teacher at Snow Hill School.  His class of 5th graders is like any ordinary class.  There’s the Brain, the Troublemaker, the Gossip Queen, the kids with secrets and the kids who just want to have fun.  And while Mr. Terupt’s teaching methods may not be orthodox, they sure are exciting!  As tentative new friendships begin to form, and the class learns to trust Mr Terupt, a horrible accident happens which changes everything in an instant.  While this book would make a difficult read-aloud, as the story is told alternately by 7 different students, it would be a fantastic addition to any 5th grade classroom or literature circle.

I’ve come to the point in my blogging life when I just simply have to make a list of books.  I’ve read some great ones lately, but I don’t have the time to write posts about them all.  So in no particular order, here’s what I’ve been reading the last few weeks:

Counting on Grace by Elizabeth Winthrop:  A great juvenile historical fiction about the anti-child labor movement in the U.S.

The Bright Side of Disaster by Katherine Center: The perfect chick lit for a new mom.  Center writes with humor and honesty about being a new mom, yet somehow manages to throw in some romance at the same time.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See:  Explores women’s friendship, secret writing and foot binding in China.  Even though the book is about so much more than foot binding, what will stick with me are the graphic descriptions of the foot binding process.  I had to skip several pages because I was feeling nauseous just reading about it.

Rutka’s Notebook: A Voice From the Holocaust: A newly discovered journal, kept by a 14 year old Jewish girl, living in Poland.

The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Donalyn Miller: Made me want to go back to teaching.  Can’t wait for my own kids to read!  Pre-teachers and current teachers should read this book to regain perspective on what our job as teachers is all about.

Off Season by Anne Rivers Siddons  A love story.  Mostly good, but the ending was just strange.  I wouldn’t bother with it.

The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect us From Violence by Gavin DeBecker:  Absolutely fascinating.  A must-read especially for women.  De Becker is a well known security professional, and writes knowledgeably about how to protect yourself by listening to your intuition.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon:  Set in Spain.  Young Daniel unravels the mystery of a stranger who is roaming through Europe, burning every book he can find by Daniel’s favorite author.

Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos:  A companion book to Belong to Me.

Where the River Ends by Charles Martin:  Look out Nicholas Sparks.  Martin’s southern romance is much sweeter and deeper than anything Sparks has written recently.  Doss and Abbie battle cancer together through a river journey.

Having read everything that Torey Hayden has published, I’m still not tired of reading about heroic special education teachers. I searched around and found this book by MacCracken. It’s written in a similar format to Hayden’s books, chronicling one school year in MacCracken’s life. There are several big differences though. First, MacCracken has fictionalized her account, rather than just changing names and places like Hayden does. (In spite of this, the book is still categorized as non-fiction by the library.) Second, MacCracken writes with much more of a political agenda. Where Hayden will comment on laws and policies that make her teaching difficult, MacCracken tends to complain and rant, which is annoying and distracting from the story. A third difference is that MacCracken does describe her teaching methods in more detail, which for me as a teacher, is interesting and helpful.Lovey, a Very Special Child

Somebody Else's KidsThis was the first book I ever read by Hayden. I read it first years ago, loved it, but forgot about it. Then, when I was at my mom’s house last summer, she had another Hayden book, One Child, which I read. That reminded me of this book, so I read it over again.

As do most of her books, this one chronicles one school year with Hayden and her classroom. This time, she’s teaching as a resource room teacher, but also is given the responsibility of teaching 4 children who don’t fit in anywhere else. My favorite storyline involves Lori, a first grade student who just can’t learn how to read, no matter what anybody tries. Eventually, Hayden comes to realize that for Lori, there are more important things than reading. Because this story takes place early in Hayden’s career, she has a hard time summoning the courage to stand up to school officials and fighting for Lori.

Twilight Children by Torey Hayden

12th September 2005

Hayden is working at a children’s psychiatric ward when she meets Cassandra, who is recovering from an abusive kidnapping situation, and Drake, who is a charming 4 year old who won’t say a word. Hayden works to make a break through with Cassandra, and tries to unravel the mystery of why Drake won’t speak. Although Hayden usually works only with children, she begins meeting with Gerda, a lonely, depressed, 82 year old stroke victim who is refusing to communicate.

Sometimes reading Hayden’s books just make me tired! Where does she get the mental energy to help these people who are so desperate, and then to write a book about it all?Twilight Children : Three Voices No One Heard Until a Therapist Listened

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