Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Charlotte's Web (E.B. White)

I can't believe I never thought to read this book aloud right at the beginning if the school year before. It's on my list for this fall. Love this story.  Wonderful example of the power of influence and how anything can happen if you will it.

I bought a couple copies of this book because we are reading it for a book club at church with our kids. The copy I bought has a forward by Kate DiCamillo, which I loved! She is brilliant. I had to wonder, after reading her intro, if authors like E.B. White weren't a big influence on the books she writes.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Think Smart (Richard Restak, M.D.)

I listened to this on CD while we were traveling. It was quite interesting. The beginning talks about the best things to do for your brain's health: eat well and exercise (why is it always the same thing?!) :)
He also tells of interesting ideas for ways to increase your mental capacity. It inspired me to work on my memory and concentration skills. I have set a goal to memorize six piano songs over the next year and continue learning new words, writing, and memorizing lists.
I was particularly fascinated with his information on Alzheimer's. When people's brains were examined, after death, they discovered that there were grey areas of the brain - as if those areas of the brain were worn out. The interesting thing is they appeared in people's brains who exhibited symptoms of Alzheimer's as well as those who didn't. The difference seemed to be those who worked on brain active brain skills rather than falling into passivity in old age, as well as if they had spent their younger years learning and staying mentally engaged. Fascinating.

Goodreads Summary:

In Think Smart, the renowned neuropsychiatrist and bestselling author Richard Restak details how each of us can improve and tone our body's most powerful organ: the brain.

As an expert on the brain, Restak knows that in the last five years there have been exciting new scientific discoveries about the brain and its performance. So he has asked his colleagues—among them the world's leading brain scientists and researchers—one important question: What can I do to help my brain work more efficiently? Their surprising and remarkably feasible answers are at the heart of Think Smart.

Dr. Restak combines advice culled from cutting-edge research with brain-tuning exercises to show how individuals of any age can make their brains work more effectively. In the same accessible prose that made Mozart's Brain and the Fighter Pilot a New York Times bestseller, Restak presents a wide array of practical recommendations about a variety of topics, including the crucial role sleep plays in boosting creativity, the importance of honing sensory memory, and the neuron-firing benefits of certain foods.

In Think Smart, the man the Smithsonian Institution has called "wise, witty, and ethical" offers audiences helpful suggestions for fighting neurological decline that will put every listener on the path to building a healthier, more limber brain.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Will and Whit (Laura Lee Gulledge)

Last summer I read Page by Paige and thought it was one of the best graphic novels I'd read. I decided I should read a few more graphic novels this summer. I thumbed through the shelves at the library and picked this one - only to later discover it was the same author as Page by Paige.
This story is about an adolescent girl struggling with the death of her parents. She admits she is afraid of the dark. In the dark there is no hiding. It is just you and your thoughts. Her shadows all through the story are interesting and seem to chase her and be rather ghoulish. Through friendship, she is able to deal with the darkness and find light.
A good read!

Goodreads Summary:

Wilhelmina “Will” Huxstep is a creative soul struggling to come to terms with a family tragedy. She crafts whimsical lamps, in part to deal with her fear of the dark. As she wraps up another summer in her mountain town, she longs for unplugged adventures with her fellow creative friends, Autumn, Noel, and Reese. Little does she know that she will get her wish in the form of an arts carnival and a blackout, courtesy of a hurricane named Whitney, which forces Will to face her fear of darkness.
Laura Lee Gulledge’s signature visual metaphors will be on full display in this all-new graphic novel, a moving look at shedding light on the dark corners of life.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

I Didn't Do My Homework Because.... (Benjamin Chaud)

This book would be really fun to read with my class. Our school gives homework each day and it is a big topic! I wonder if it would work to read this book early in the year after we have talked about homework needing to be done each day as well as the consequences that go with not doing it. Everyone's pretty keen at first, but it doesn't take too long until issues start to creep up. It would be fun to have the kids pick crazy reasons for homework not getting finished, illustrate it, and have it on the bulletin board. I wonder if we could get rid of some of the excuses by having a funny discussion starting by reading this book.

Goodreads Summary:

How many excuses are there for not doing homework? Let us count the ways: Giant lizards invaded the neighborhood. Elves hid all the pencils. And then there was that problem with carnivorous plants.... The excuses go on and on, each more absurd than the next and escalating to hilarious heights. Featuring detail-rich illustrations by Benjamin Chaud, this book is guaranteed to amuse kids and their parents, not to mention anyone who has experienced a slacker student moment—and isn't that everyone?

Here are some of my favorite pages from this book:

Emily's Blue Period (Cathleen Daly)

Every year I read a story with my student's about Picasso in a unit on imagination. This would be a great addition to that part of our unit. The feelings Emily has a realistic and could provide for a great discussion on children's experiences. She makes connections with what she knows about Picasso's art with her own life. Children could draw or write after about experiences in their own lives that bring about different feelings.

Goodreads Summary:

Emily wants to be an artist. She likes painting and loves the way artists like Pablo Picasso mixed things up.Emily's life is a little mixed up right now. Her dad doesn't live at home anymore, and it feels like everything around her is changing.

“When Picasso was sad for a while,” says Emily, “he only painted in blue. And now I am in my blue period.”

It might last quite some time.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You (Nancy Tillman)

Such a beautiful book - all about how loved a child is. My principal introduced this book to me when she was transferred to a different school. I in turn read it to my niece and nephew when they stayed at our house on one of their first nights away from their parents. It's hard to read this one and not melt into tears. Beautifully written and very sentimental.

Goodreads summary:

. . . I wanted you more than you’ll ever know,

so I sent love to follow wherever you go. . . .

Love is the greatest gift we have to give our children. It’s the one thing they can carry with them each and every day.

If love could take shape it might look something like these heartfelt words and images from the inimitable Nancy Tillman. Here is a book to share with your loved ones, no matter how near or far, young or old, they are.(

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Under The Egg (Laura Marx Fitzgerald)

Next time I take my kids on a trip to New York, we will visit all the museums and definitely read this book first!

This is a good read. There are lots of interesting connections to art. It would be fun to read it if you were studying these artists in an art class or history class. 

There we're some things that didn't make sense to me. They were too easy and very unexplained:

- chickens in the back yard in NYC? Isn't there a by-law against that?

- how do you have paparazzi-deserving movie stars living down the street from crazy math ladies whose children have to take on the adult responsibilities?

- would an x-ray tech really get bamboozled into x-raying a piece of old art?

- poor kid who has to worry so much about money and sees no solution....but alas, in the end it works out with hundreds of thousands of cash found in the walls of the house. Of course!

....and on and on and on.

Besides that (and a few more) I did enjoy the read. I would say this book is best suited for middle school though. Might be too much for an 8 year old...but then,  you never know! It would be a great book to read with your favorite child because the adult and child can be well entertained by it.

The writing, itself, is lovely. There were a number of times I folded down a corner of the page so that I could add it to my list of favorites:

P. 9 Jack said my mom was always a big "off", even as a little girl. It's not that she was crazy or even slow. It's just that she always preferred the world inside her mind to the world outside. 

 P. 33 Mr. Katsanakis was not exactly a friend of the family. In fact, he was on my grandfather's list (The League if Nameses, I called it). Jack had an extensive catalog of personal grievances against most of his acquaintances, stemming from disagreements over art, politics, sports rivalries, money owed (or not owed), parking violations, and garbage can placement. And like a good lieutenant, I accepted Jack's grudges as my own.

P. 75: by the time I got home, it was clear the house was feeling neglected and was going to take it out  on me - starting right with the front door, which dumped its heavy brass doorknob into my hand. The upstairs toilet swirled spitefully. My mother "helped out" by dumping her dirty laundry in the hallway floor.
The garden was paying the heaviest price for my extracurricular activities: stems drooped, vegetables shrivelled in the heat. Love your garden, and it will love you back, as jack would say. Same goes for chickens. But today the chickens were peeved too, and Srtmesis pecked my foot when I scattered some beet greens as a guilt gift.
I spent the next morning atoning, and by the time I had stopped for breakfast, I had re drilled and replaced the stripped screws in the front door, accosted the upstairs toilet, cleaned our the chicken coops, and turned the compost heap.

I loved this paragraph about the library:

P. 84. The public library is the closest I'll ever come to a shopping spree. Once, twice, sometimes three times a week, I'll drop in, raid the stacks, wielding my library card like a socialite with a Bloomingdake's charge account, I grab anything that Kim's interesting, flipping through a few pages before losing interest or devouring the whole thing in one sitting. And if I don't like it, I can return it. It's the only place where I can be wasteful with no consequences.

As long as I return the books on time.