Star Passage: Honor and Mercy by Clark Rich Burbidge

Middle readers looking for a series about time travel adventure will enjoy the third book in the series, Honor and Mercy. I would suggest the first two books in the series be read to fully appreciate the evil “trackers” who want to destroy the earth.

Check out this link to read more about the series.

The readers quickly gets pulled into the story as one of the main characters is skateboarding and is seriously injured. The story follows his rehab and introduces him to characters in the first two books who time travel and fight the trackers.

Themes of Christianity and history make this an interesting read as the characters try to do what is good to help the world in the past and the present.

Max Goes to Jupiter: A Science Adventure with Max the Dog by Jeffrey Bennett

Schema: space, rockets, explorers

Text-to-Self Connections: Studying the solar system

While looking for a good intermediate level read for 5th and 6th graders or a realistic fiction read aloud for 2nd and 3rd grade, I found this book about Max, a dog, who goes into an exploration of Jupiter and its moons. The story is for the younger and the “big kid” fact boxes share nonfiction information that will capture the interest of older young learners.

The captivating full color illustrations on glossy, large pages enhance the enjoyment of reading and sharing this book.

The series, Big Kid Science books aspire to educate, make connections with readers’ lives, and inspire further learning. Check out the website that accompanies the book.

School Tales by Sharon Myrick

Schema: high school, rite of passage, making decisions

Text-to-Self Connections: making hard choices, learning tolerance

Themes: learning to think for one’s self, rites of passage, respect for all people

Point of View: The book is divided into different sections to hear the main characters thoughts. The reader can see the maturing and growth of the students as the novel progresses.

Book Talk: The novel focuses on a group of very mature high school teens who decide they want to learn through deep discussions and project based learning. They convince their parents to allow them leave a private high school for the local college faculty’s kids and transfer to a local public school where the principal and teachers are open to their ideas to change the world. All of the characters are very intelligent. There’s a mystery involving a death, an older girl-younger boy sexual relationship, friendships, parent-child communication struggles, drug dealers, and other topics that would intrigue teen readers.

The author leans to the liberal side in the dialogue about world issues. Throughout the story the students tackle big food companies over farming  food co-ops. They have discussions about how colleges use different types of testing for admission, values about religion versus extremist, political leadership, how people treat and view immigrants, freedom, young love, bi-racial identification, gender identity, bullying, learning to listen and communicate effectively, and “living a life worth living.” 

The seniors decide to snap their fingers instead of clapping when they approve of something the teachers or principal says bringing back the memories of the very beatnik sixties.  The characters in this book are way cool.

Students age 16+ would enjoy the book. This might be the book to turn a nonreader into a reader if they run across this title and start reading it. It’s a good read and captures the interest of the reader quickly.

 

 

 

Home by Adam Leitman Bailey

Schema: Think about what is a home. List some places that are homes to people, animals, and things.

Text-to-Self Connections: Visiting different homes such as relatives, friends, and neighbors

Theme: The author is sharing the message that home is where a person feels happy and loved as opposed to a particular place.

In this full color picture book, the main character, a small boy, feels discontented with his home and sets out to explore the world and the way others live.  He visits many places and tells what he does there. He doesn’t make any judgements about each place. Readers may see their own home in the book. Homes include a farm in a rural area, mobile homes, large homes with swimming pools, a bird’s nest, and an igloo.

Synthesis: Ask students what the author is telling them with this story. I think they will be able to synthesize the boy’s experience into their own schema and apply it to where they live and why it’s the best home for them.

Drawing Conclusions: The boy drew the conclusion that his best home is where he is loved. Each place he visited, he was alone. What was missing? His family was missing.

I recommend this as a read aloud for grades 2-5 for a discussion about homes.

 

Counting Sea Life with the Little Seahorse by Sheri Fink and Derek Taylor Kent

Counting_Sea_Life_Awards_Hi-Res-483x600 To Purchase click here
There’s so much to talk about with your little listeners with this sweet book! First, is the obvious, it’s a wonderful counting book with the number word in text as well as numerically with the appropriate number of items. I think discerning eyes will be entertained as they have to seek and find the number on each page as it is camouflaged within the scene.

Secondly, the rhyming text is very clever and will capture the attention of the listener. The alliteration throughout the text is playful to the ear and eye as the illustrations support the text so well.

Third, the types of sea life and the characterization of them appeal to all types of interest. There’s a ninja narwhal and a tuna in a tutu along with hungry sharks and a dancing dolphin! The way the authors and illustrator, Lynx Animation Studios, bring the sea life to the page will completely entertain young listeners and as the adult reader, I would certainly never get tired of reading this one.

This book would be an excellent addition to a unit on sea life for young students.

Kindergarten Parent Tips for First Day of School

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Your baby is starting kindergarten or preschool. You’ve bought all the clothes, all the supplies, but what else can you do to make that transition into kindergarten a happy one for you and your child?

1. Visit the school before that first day of kindergarten and walk around the building with your child. Visit the cafeteria, the library, the gym, the office, and the playground. Come to the playground several times just for fun before that first day.
2. Read books aloud to your child and show them how to sit on the floor with their feet and hands to themselves while listening like kids do in kindergarten.
3. Write your child’s name inside their lunch box, backpack, and when it gets cold, their coats. At the end of the school year, the school will have about one hundred coats with no name and usually give them to the Salvation Army because the kids don’t remember they have lost them. Kindergarten kids need help keeping up with their coats.
4. Talk about how to eat breakfast and lunch, and how they will feel if they don’t eat it. It’s a long afternoon in kindergarten till 3:00 when you haven’t eaten. Get a school menu and talk about what food they will be serving each day so your baby will be ready to make those choices. When you visit the cafeteria tell them their class will all sit at one of the long tables by whoever they were behind in the line. The teacher will not stay with them during lunch, but will drop them off in the line, and then, after lunch, will be back to line them up. Make sure they know that they don’t need money to eat at school because you will have already paid for it or make arrangements. Some kindergarten students may worry about eating if they don’t know their food has been prepaid.
5. Talk about how to walk in a line, keep their hands to themselves, and to wait to talk until they get back in the room. Tell you child that kindergarten kids have to listen in the hall so that they know where to go.
6. Talk about how your kindergarten child will feel if one of the other kids is crying for their momma. Some kids really lose it and scream at the top of their lungs. It is an incredibly stressful thing to see. I feel so sorry for them. If you think this might be your child, try to comfort them ahead of time about how at the end of the day you or someone they know will be there to take them home.
7. Above all, do not cry in front of your kindergartener. They will sense fear and uncertainty that will make it very hard for them to cope without you, and it will set a pattern that may take weeks to overcome. During the week before school, teachers will be about decorating their rooms. If you feel your child may have a hard time being left, try to meet with your teacher before school starts. Many schools have a night to meet the teacher and see the room before school starts. Look on your school’s website to see when this is and don’t miss it. If you can go to the room, practice having your child stay in the room and wave bye to you as you leave. Then pop right back in and tell them that’s what the first day will be like.
8. Update your child’s contacts so that someone can be reached if your child needs you. Remember to do this when anything changes during the year.
9. Fill out the paperwork to be a school volunteer. During the year there will be times when kindergarten parents are needed for field trips and book fairs. Plan to volunteer a few times to help your child’s teacher or to help the librarian. Your child will love seeing you at school and you will feel much more at ease by seeing how the school teachers and principal interact with children. The school workers will all know you and will remember your child’s name and speak to them more often in passing.
10. Make it a best practice to never say anything negative about the school, other students, the teacher, or principal in hearing range of your child. This practice will help your child to see school as a safe and happy place. Make appointments to visit with your child’s teacher to make sure any misunderstandings can be corrected as soon as possible.

 Now What?

Keep your phone nearby, and get ready for tomorrow! Make a routine each night to be ready for school the next morning.

When you see your child after school or daycare take time to talk with them about their day. Ask them to show you their take home folders and look for notes or papers that have been sent home. Your kindergartener will be excited to tell you about their day. Be excited for their accomplishments!

For the second day of school, urge your kindergarten child to go in without you. Principals will be at the door directing the children to where they need to go.

It’s hard to let them go, but you can’t hold them back. You have to run into the future with your child, taking each step with them, then letting go and watching them run ahead into their future until the next new thing, when you will hold their hands again.

 

Solve for Happy: Engineer You Path to Joy by Mo Gawdat

Solve for Happy: Engineer Your Path to JoySolve for Happy: Engineer Your Path to Joy by Mo Gawdat
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mo has some great ideas to help others focus on the happy and joy in our lives. He uses a lot of graphics which makes it easy to read and find the parts that pertain to you. He touches on all aspects of our thoughts about being happy and searching for joy that make us unable to let go and Live In Peace. Live in peace everyday, let go of the negative, give, express gratitude, love, love, and love! Do not fear death because God has planned this wonderful universe with an afterlife in mind. Our loved ones who have passed on are still near and we will see them again. Throughout the book, Mo uses logic and mathematics to frame his thinking. This logical presentation was much more interesting than I expected. After some passages Mo tells the reader to think about what he has just said for a while before reading on. In some parts Mo tells the reader to get a pencil and some paper and make a list of things such as what truly makes you happy. He gets down to simplifying things and to reflect more on our current state of being. Toward the end Mo writes about belief in a higher power. He talks about evolution and intelligent design and doesn’t want to commit to one or the other, but he does say he knows he will see his son, Ali, again, and that he believes there’s too much to our universe for it to be unplanned by a brilliant designer. For me, I take away that he does believe God is our creator and gives us the promise of living on after our time on this old world is over. I really enjoyed his book, and I do think reading it has made me happier. In times when I’m not happy, I will remember what Mo has written and search for my default state of joy. Thank you for this great book, Mo Gawdat!

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Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in CrisisHillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was such a thought-provoking book and I couldn’t put it down. He talks about “Adverse Childhood Experiences” that kids cannot overcome without a stable home and an adult that they know who puts them first and cares for them. I recommend this book to all teachers and admins looking for ways to reach some of the tough kids we deal with. I don’t think as a school teacher that we can make the difference these kids need, but it does give understanding. We have to protect our children from these adverse experiences because it changes the way they process their own lives, making some have a give up attitude which means that they think no matter what they do, they’ll never make it. Life is too against them. But for JD Vance, his grandmother saved him. He had a few teachers he connected with, and most importantly, he was lucky in that he was very intelligent. He says he was very lucky with some of the connections he made throughout his life. He has a great TED talk if you are interested. His story just resonated with my own hillbilly roots.

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Old Wolf by Avi

Schema: hunting, playing video games
Text-to-text Connections: other books where the main characters are animals and the story is told from their point of view such as Charlotte’s Web.
Old Wolf, Nashoba, is challenged as pack leader to find food for his hungry pack.

Casey, a thirteen-year-old boy, loves his video game where he kills animals, and is so excited to receive a bow for his birthday.

The two characters’ stories run parallel to each other and converge at the end of the book.

Merla, a raven, is old like Nashoba, and tries to help him find a herd of elk, and ultimately gives her life to save him from Casey’s bow. When Casey sees that he hit Merla, it changes his way of thinking about killing. He is so changed that afterwards, he never played his animal kill game again. The reader concludes that his bow will be used as a sport in target shooting.

Avi tells the story in a very Zen fashion. Merla asks questions of Nashoba to get him to think about his goals. Merla tells Nashoba, “The bigger you think you are, the smaller you are.” p. 107 Then Nashoba shares with Merla, “There’s a old wolf expression: the smaller you think you are, the bigger you are.” p. 113 Both quotes would lend to an interesting expository paragraph assignment.

Characterization: Nashoba goes through such pain and pushes forward to serve his pack and to save his pride. We read that he is eight years old which is toward the end of his life expectancy. At the end, after he is helped by both Merla and Casey, he is able to push on and to accept what he is, an old wolf.

Theme: Respect life at all times and in all forms, both human and animal. The world is one and kindness can be found in the least likely places.

I enjoyed Avi’s book so much. The feelings that Nashoba feels are shared by leaders everywhere as our time to lead comes to an end.

Procedural or Functional Texts

Procedural texts inform the reader about how to do something. Sometimes it’s presented in a step-by-step format like how to make a recipe or put a toy together. The higher level procedural texts inform the reader about how to carry out goals such as how to begin a new career or learn or perfect a craft.

I often have teachers asking me for books to teach this skill. Here are a few that I have used that show the reader how to synthesize information from procedural or functional texts.

This one is good for kinder, first, and second and students will connect with learning to ride a bicycle.

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