Saturday, July 16, 2016

Science Comics: Dinosaurs (MK Reed)


This is a definitely classroom-keeper! I loved how it explained the history and ever evolving understanding of dinosaurs. There has been a lot of competition in the search for understanding about dinosaurs. The author shows how understanding has evolved and where we're at now. The illustrations are simply terrific. In my true style of reading graphic novels, I often had to remind myself to slow down and look at the illustrations and graphs as it is packed full of information. I don't have a good memory for all these facts, but I know a bunch of kids who'd totally absorb all this information and simply love it.

Earlier this month I read Coral Reefs from the same series. I will definitely watch for more of these books.

Goodreads summary:

Every volume of Science Comics offers a complete introduction to a particular topic--dinosaurs, coral reefs, the solar system, volcanoes, bats, flying machines, and more. These gorgeously illustrated graphic novels offer wildly entertaining views of their subjects. Whether you're a fourth grader doing a natural science unit at school or a thirty-year-old with a secret passion for airplanes, these books are for you!

This volume: in Dinosaurs, learn all about the history of paleontology! This fascinating look at dinosaur science covers the last 150 years of dinosaur hunting, and illuminates how our ideas about dinosaurs have changed--and continue to change.

Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School (John Medina)


The brain fascinates me. I loved this book because it explains the science in ways I can understand (I'm really not a science person!) I also liked how he added ideas for ways to implement these ideas in regular work, home and school life.

The 12 rules are:
EXERCISE | Rule #1: Exercise boosts brain power.
SURVIVAL | Rule #2: The human brain evolved, too.
WIRING | Rule #3: Every brain is wired differently.
ATTENTION | Rule #4: We don't pay attention to boring things.
SHORT-TERM MEMORY | Rule #5: Repeat to remember.
LONG-TERM MEMORY | Rule #6: Remember to repeat.
SLEEP | Rule #7: Sleep well, think well.
STRESS | Rule #8: Stressed brains don't learn the same way as non-stressed
SENSORY INTEGRATION | Rule #9: Stimulate more of the senses.
VISION | Rule #10: Vision trumps all other senses.
GENDER | Rule #11: Male and female brains are different.
EXPLORATION | Rule #12: We are powerful and natural explorers.

Goodreads summary:

Most of us have no idea what’s really going on inside our heads. Yet brain scientists have uncovered details every business leader, parent, and teacher should know—like the need for physical activity to get your brain working its best.

How do we learn? What exactly do sleep and stress do to our brains? Why is multi-tasking a myth? Why is it so easy to forget—and so important to repeat new knowledge? Is it true that men and women have different brains?

In Brain Rules, Dr. John Medina, a molecular biologist, shares his lifelong interest in how the brain sciences might influence the way we teach our children and the way we work. In each chapter, he describes a brain rule—what scientists know for sure about how our brains work—and then offers transformative ideas for our daily lives.

Medina’s fascinating stories and infectious sense of humor breathe life into brain science. You’ll learn why Michael Jordan was no good at baseball. You’ll peer over a surgeon’s shoulder as he proves that most of us have a Jennifer Aniston neuron. You’ll meet a boy who has an amazing memory for music but can’t tie his own shoes.

You will discover how:

Every brain is wired differently
Exercise improves cognition
We are designed to never stop learning and exploring
Memories are volatile
Sleep is powerfully linked with the ability to learn
Vision trumps all of the other senses
Stress changes the way we learn

In the end, you’ll understand how your brain really works—and how to get the most out of it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Swimmy (Leo Lionni)

We read some of Leo Lionni's French stories when my children were in elementary school. His books are beautiful and usually involve animals.

I love the problem solving in this story. Swimmy escapes disaster and learns to be happy. When trying to talk his new fish friends into an adventure, he has to help them work through their fears. They come up with a great solution.

It would be good to use this book as an example of different styles of illustrations. It is quite unique and very beautiful.

Goodreads summary:

Deep in the sea there lives a happy school of little fish. Their watery world is full of wonders, but there is also danger, and the little fish are afraid to come out of hiding . . . until Swimmy comes along. Swimmy shows his friends how—with ingenuity and team work—they can overcome any danger. With its graceful text and stunning artwork, this Caldecott Honor Book deserves a place on every child’s shelf.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

You Are (Not) Small (Anna Kang)

Good book for discussing comparative language (big, bigger, biggest) as well as how to write  elaborative detail.

Goodreads summary:

Two fuzzy creatures can't agree on who is small and who is big, until a couple of surprise guests show up, settling it once and for all!

The simple text of Anna Kang and bold illustrations of New Yorker cartoonist Christopher Weyant tell an original and very funny story about size -- it all depends on who's standing next to you.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Floating on Mama's Song (Laura Lacamara)

Fascinating story. I have to wonder what the floating while singing is all about? Is it that when we do what is right for us, it is like we're floating? We are free and the powers of earth that tie us down no longer have power.

Mama's neighbors come and complain about her singing. It reminded me of the crabs in the bucket theory: If there are a bunch of crabs in a bucket, if one tries to get out, the others will pull it back down so it cannot escape the bucket.

Great story for students who know or are learning Spanish as it is bilingual.

Goodreads summary:

Anita's mama loves to sing. She sings such beautiful, happy songs that something magical happens: Everyone who hears her music floats high above the ground. But then Mama stops singing. Can Anita find a way to bring back happy times and magical moments for her family?

Debut author Laura Lacamara's lyrical, uplifting tale is paired with Yuyi Morales's stunning art for a magical celebration of family, music, and happiness.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs (Matthew Dicks)

I heard about this book from the book club I have started going to at Chapters. I decided to read it on our way back from Miami. We flew from Miami to Montreal to Calgary. Unfortunately, I finished it as we were barely in the air after leaving Montreal. It is s pretty quick read. 

I hadn't noticed that the author was a male and that really surprised me when I got to the end. It is a book about high school and popularity gone wrong and female friendship problem solving. I guess boys have those experiences too....but I was surprised at how authentic the relationships all seemed. Pretty good for a guy! Although, I must add, I thought it was weird the book was dedicated to his high school girlfriend: 

For Laura Marchand, my high school sweetheart and the first person to ever believe in me. The world deserved so much more of your light. 

This was a great summer read. As many family and school reunions happen and treks are made back to towns where people grew up, it is interesting to read about someone else's experience. I don't think unresolved problems are very uncommon. I think many people would be able to relate to this book.

The overriding theme in the book:
P. 100 There's no great dividing line between being a kid and an adult. We're not all caterpillars turning into butterflies. You are what you are. When you grow up, you may be more careful than you were when you we're a kid. You don't say what you think as much as you once did. You learn to play nice. But you're still the same person who did good things or rotten things when you were. Young. Whether you feel good about then or bad...whether you regret them, well, that's a different things. But it's not like they disappear forever.

P. 154 Only now did Caroline understand why she had to return to Blackstone. Emily had once been the impetus, but she wasn't the real reason for this journey. Spartacus was right. It's a tough way to live, never forgiving anyone for the indiscretions of their youth. Especially yourself. 

Her journey home was about a secret. Her secret. The burden that she had been carrying on her back for so long. The guilt she had carried for so long. 

The secret behind Lucy's death was more important than anything Emily had done to her. She had blamed Emily for her sister's death, and though she still believed that Emily owned a small part of it, that part was shrinking fast. 

P. 167-168 Emily and Caroline has it out a out what happened that day in the cafeteria:

These pages broke my heart. It is an example of how impactful unkind things can be. It happens to so many people in high school....but it happens later in life too. It truly is heartbreaking and often, life changing.

They talk through it though....and even come up with some answers (oh if only everyone could be so self reflective. Often people cannot find the meaning in these experiences):

Pages 180-181:

And Caroline does work through it. She seems to find peace and come to come good conclusions:

This book would make a great discussion for book club. Maybe that's why the author wrote it. 

Goodreads summary: 

Caroline Jacobs is a wimp, someone who specializes in the suffering of tiny indignities in silence. And the big ones, too. But when the twinset-wearing president of the local Parent Teacher Organization steps out of line one too many times, Caroline musters the courage to assert herself. With a four-letter word, no less.

Caroline's outburst has awakened something in her. Not just gumption, but a realization that the roots of her tirade can be traced back to something that happened to her as a teenager, when her best friend very publicly betrayed her. So, with a little bit of bravery, Caroline decides to go back to her home town and tell off her childhood friend. She busts her daughter out of school, and the two set off to deliver the perfect comeback...some twenty-five years later. But nothing goes as planned. Long buried secrets rise to the surface, and Caroline finds she has to face much more than one old, bad best friend.

The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs is an enchanting novel about the ways in which our childhood experiences reverberate through our lives. It's the story of a woman looking to fix her life through an act of bravery, and of a mother and daughter learning to understand one another. Deceptively simple and highly engaging, this latest novel by Matthew Dicks is perfect for those of us who were last to be picked at sports, and for everyone who is thrilled not to be in high school any more.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Love is Real (Janet Lawler)

This would be a good discussion starter when writing or talking about families and how we show love to teach other.

I have to wonder though about how people feel love in different ways. This book is full of acts of service and quality time. What about words of physical touch, words of affirmation and gifts?

Goodreads summary:

From author Janet Lawler comes a charming story celebrating the power of love, with warm and tender art from debut picture-book illustrator Anna Brown. Young readers will delight in following along families of foxes, bunnies, and bears as they learn about the nature of unconditional love in Love Is Real.

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Doorbell Rang (Pat Hutchins)

Would be a good story for introducing division! Could also be a simple book to use when working on predicting.

Goodreads summary:

Each ring of the doorbell brings more friends to share the delicious cookies Ma has made. This terrific and suspenseful read-aloud picture book about friendship, sharing, and cookies can also be used to introduce basic math concepts to young children. "Refreshing, enjoyable and unpredictable."—School Library Journal

Pat Hutchins is the celebrated creator of numerous award-winning books for children, including Rosie's WalkTitch, andDon't Forget the Bacon! The Doorbell Rang was named a Notable Book for Children by the American Library Association.

Supports the Common Core State Standards

Thursday, July 7, 2016

School's First Day (Adam Rex)

Great book for the first day of school. We could talk about feeling nervous, talk about how to help others that are feeling nervous, etc. Sometimes kids are surprised to hear that teachers are nervous too. Who would have thought of a school feeling nervous?

Goodreads summary:

It's the first day of school at Frederick Douglass Elementary and everyone's just a little bit nervous, especially the school itself. What will the children do once they come? Will they like the school? Will they be nice to him?

The school has a rough start, but as the day goes on, he soon recovers when he sees that he's not the only one going through first-day jitters.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Sidewalk Flowers (Jon Arno Lawson)

Love the book. I'm not really sure how to share wordless books very well in a classroom setting though. Could take pictures and show it on the smart board, I suppose. It would be interesting to give copies to groups of kids and have them discuss what lessons we learn from this story and then compare it to what other groups discover. It would be interesting to do it as well with adults, actually!

I think this story is about noticing the little beautiful things that are around us as well as sharing those beauties with others along the way. At first I thought perhaps the dad was ignoring her and not noticing these things, but he has his own things he is noticing as well as people he is interacting with.

Goodreads summary:

In this wordless picture book, a little girl collects wildflowers while her distracted father pays her little attention. Each flower becomes a gift, and whether the gift is noticed or ignored, both giver and recipient are transformed by their encounter. "Written" by award-winning poet JonArno Lawson and brought to life by illustrator Sydney Smith, Sidewalk Flowers is an ode to the importance of small things, small people, and small gestures.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Mom, Dad, Our Books and Me (Danielle Marcotte)

I'm a total sucker for books about books. This is about a kid who loves reading with his family. It was chosen for the ILA Let's Read Day this next September. I think it's one I will buy and keep. I love the illustrations.  I also think it'll be a great way to introduce students to my expectation that this year they will read more than they ever have before. I always hope to instill a deeper love of reading in my students. The story talks about how reading is involved in many different aspects of life - a good reason to develop that skill!

Danielle Marcotte is a a Canadian author. All the more reason to read this beautiful book!

Goodreads summary:

Reading takes many forms. Some of us read novels, while others read cookbooks, sheet music, tarot cards, or even the stars in the sky. We read clocks, train schedules, and facial expressions. In this ode to reading, each form is lovely and worth celebrating.Mom, Dad, Our Books, and Me follows a young boy and those around him — parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and neighbors — as they all read, immersed in what moves them. 

Vibrant, whimsical paper collage artwork depicts the colors and textures of the many places in which we read, from hammocks and bubble baths to park benches and waiting rooms. The diverse cityscapes and landscapes often include fanciful elements of imagination.

Mom, Dad, Our Books, and Me will leave young readers reveling in this newfound or soon-to-come skill that sparks new adventures and brings people together.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Chicken Butt (Erica S. Perl)

Loved this story!! We laughed and laughed. Some of the kids knew the lines and that made us laugh even more.

Goodreads Summary:

You know what?
Chicken butt!

The classic schoolyard joke has been recast as an irreverent picture book, with call-and-response parts for parent and child. The word repetition in Erica S. Perl’s text, and wonderfully comic illustrations by beloved artist Henry Cole, make this a particularly inviting book for new readers, as does the opportunity to “trick” a parent or other adult into participating in a very silly joke. The humor builds to a surprising and satisfying conclusion. Warning: Kids will want to read this one over and over and over again! “An unhinged piece of slap-happy rhyming…rocket-propelled artwork…the romp is a powerful piece of cacophony, more frenetic by the moment.”—Kirkus Reviews

Sunday, July 3, 2016

I Feel Bad About My Neck (Nora Ephron)

This lady is hilarious. She is the author of the screenplays When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail. Can you imagine having writing all those screenplays and having them turned into movies??

She has led a bit of a privileged life and has been successful in her own life. As a result, she talks about some things that I just didn't relate to. She has been divorced more than once and has chapters on face lifts, manicures and interactions with famous people like Martha Stewart, JFK and Bill Clinton. 

However, she also had a lot of stuff that regular people can relate to and get a good chuckle out of. 

Some favourite parts: 

p. 51 My children thought calling Directory Assistance was free, on top of which they always pressed "1" to be connected, for an additional charge of thirty-five cents. This drove me even crazier. (Remember this?? Does 411 even exist anymore??!)

p. 52. Mostly I'm sad about just plain reading. When I pass a bookshelf, I like to pick out a book from it and thumb through it. When I see a newspaper on the couch, I like to sit down with it. When the mail arrives I like to rip it open. Reading is a part of the main things I do. Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel l Iike I have accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it's a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it's a way of making contact with someone else's imagination after a day that's all to real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss. But my ability to pick something up and read it -which has gone unchecked all my life up until now-is not entirely dependent on the whereabouts of my reading glasses. I look around. Why aren't they in this room? I bought six pair of them last week on sale and sprinkled them throughout the house, yet none of them is visible. Where are they?
I hate that I need reading glasses. I hate that I can't read a word in the map, in the telephone book, on the many, in the book or anywhere else without them. And the pill bottle! I forgot to mention the pill bottle. I can't read a word on the pill bottle. Does it say take two every four hours or four every two hours? Does it say good until 12/08/07 or "Expired. Period. End of story"? I have no idea what it says, and this is serious. I could die from not being able to read the print in the pill bottle. In fact, the print on the pill bottle is so small I doubt if anyone can read it. I'm not sure I could read it even when I didn't need reading glasses. Although, who can remember?

p. 83 Why hadn't I realized how much I thought of a love was simply my own highly develop gift for making lemonade?

p. 88 now that I have read the articles about Mimi Fahnestock, it has become horribly clear to me that I am probably the only young woman who ever worked in the Kennedy White Hiuse that the president did not make a pass at. Perhaps it was my permanent wave, which was a truly unfortunately mistake. Perhaps it was my wardrobe, which mostly consisted of multicoloured Dynek dress that looked like distilled Velveta cheese. Perhaps it's because I'm Jewish. Don't laugh; think about it-think about the king list of women that JFK slept with. Were any of them Jewish? I don't think so. 
On the other hand, perhaps nothing happened between us because JFK somehow sensed that discretion was not my middle name. I mean, I assure you that if anything had gone on between us, you would have had to wait this long to find out. 

P. 95 ...there is an expression for what I am-a mouse potato. It means someone who's as connected to her computer as couch potatoes are to their television sets. 

She also has pages with long lists of advice and her life's lesson. It all brought a smile to my face. 

If you need some easy entertainment, this book is a great pick. 

Goodreads summary: 

With her disarming, intimate, completely accessible voice, and dry sense of humor, Nora Ephron shares with us her ups and downs in "I Feel Bad About My Neck, " a candid, hilarious look at women who are getting older and dealing with the tribulations of maintenance, menopause, empty nests, and life itself.
The woman who brought us "When Harry Met Sally . . ., Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail, "and" Bewitched, " and the author of best sellers "Heartburn, Scribble Scribble, " and "Crazy Salad, " discusses everything--from how much she hates her purse to how much time she spends attempting to stop the clock: the hair dye, the treadmill, the lotions and creams that promise to slow the aging process but never do. Oh, and she can't stand the way her neck looks. But her dermatologist tells her there's no quick fix for that.
Ephron chronicles her life as an obsessed cook, passionate city dweller, and hapless parent. She recounts her anything-but-glamorous days as a White House intern during the JFK years ("I am probably the only young woman who ever worked in the Kennedy White House that the President did not make a pass at") and shares how she fell in and out of love with Bill Clinton--from a distance, of course. But mostly she speaks frankly and uproariously about life as a woman of a certain age.
Utterly courageous, wickedly funny, and unexpectedly moving in its truth telling, "I Feel Bad About My Neck" is a book of wisdom, advice, and laugh-out-loud moments, a scrumptious, irresistible treat.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Coral Reefs - Cities of the Ocean (Maris Wicks)

This is a great book! It is super easy to read. Even for me, someone who doesn't really seem to have a a knack for science facts. This is a graphic novel with all sorts of great information and amazing illustrations. It would be a fun book to have as a book draw during our life cycles unit.

The best news is they are working on more editions: dinosaurs, volcanoes, flying machines, bats and the solar system! I plan to read them all. This author also wrote Human Body Theatre, a well loved book in my classroom.

Goodreads summary:

Every volume of Science Comics offers a complete introduction to a particular topic--dinosaurs, coral reefs, the solar system, volcanoes, bats, flying machines, and more. These gorgeously illustrated graphic novels offer wildly entertaining views of their subjects. Whether you're a fourth grader doing a natural science unit at school or a thirty-year-old with a secret passion for airplanes, these books are for you!

This volume: in Coral Reefs, we learn all about these tiny, adorable sea animals! This absorbing look at ocean science covers the biology of coral reefs as well as their ecological importance. Nonfiction comics genius Maris Wicks brings to bear her signature combination of hardcore cuteness and in-depth science.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Hatchet (Gary Poulsen)

I spent a bunch of time thinking, "What's on his head?" Now I finally get's an axe...a hatchet!

I chose this book because my son had read it and loved it. He wants me to get him the entire series (there are three more books). I figured it would be a quick read and needed something for my weekly reading response for my students. 

I was totally taken by the story. Brian is on a plane when the pilot has a heart attack. He has to land it. It crashes, but he survives but he ends up in the Canadian wilderness. I'm not a fan of camping and this was ultimate camping. I read it with one eye closed, hardly able to stand everything he was going through - but I couldn't stop because I had to make sure he made it safely through the whole experience. Sometimes I would gasp out loud when something worse would happen. How could it get any worse?? It did!  It reminded me of what it was like to read Wild. That story was hard for me to read as well, but I had to keep going to make sure she made it through okay.

The ending, although really sudden, struck a chord with me. I loved how he said he was forever changed by this experience. I have had people say that I am different ever since certain events in my life. I am surprised that some people think you should stay the same forever. Some events do change you. And they change you forever. 

Thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson is on his way to visit his father when the single-engine plane in which he is flying crashes. Suddenly, Brian finds himself alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but a tattered Windbreaker and the hatchet his mother gave him as a present -- and the dreadful secret that has been tearing him apart since his parent's divorce. But now Brian has no time for anger, self pity, or despair -- it will take all his know-how and determination, and more courage than he knew he possessed, to survive. 

For twenty years Gary Paulsen's award-winning contemporary classic has been the survival story with which all others are compared. This new edition, with a reading group guide, will introduce a new generation of readers to this page-turning, heart-stopping adventure.