book review

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Books I am Reading

Posted by on 22 Sep 2008 | Tagged as: book review, books, books and authors, Uncategorized

  • Many Children Left Behind

    Subtitled “How the No Child Left Behind Act is Damaging our Children and our Schools.”  by Deborah Meier et al.  This was published in 2004, but the comments by people from many aspects of the education world are still pretty current. If anything, they have more meaning as time has gone on. I will say that I was surprised at how many of my own comments and arguments they DON’T refute. And how few new ones they present… A sad prediction of the state of our children’s education. public library

  • Tongue Fu! at School

    Subtitled 30 Ways to Get Along Better with Teachers, Principals, Students, and Parents. This is aimed at teachers, but has advice for older students. by Sam Horn.  I like it. This is one that I would like to add to my own bookshelf. Mostly, it seems to reiterate the advice of many good coaches I have read… LISTEN to the person, consider their point of view, and give chances for them to clarify. This author also talks about “phrases to lose” and “phrases to use.”  For example instead of clarifying the statement “this child works really hard on assignments” with the modifier but then continuing with something that detracts from the positive beginning (but she doesn’t have the skills to do well), he suggests using and then continuing with suggestions for further improvement (and she would benefit from extra help in some areas).  This is not to put a false spin on things, rather it is intended to keep people engaged in the conversations so they leave with a sense of being able to do something rather than a sense of hopelessness or anger. public library

  • Including Students with Special Needs

    subtitled A Practical Guide for Classroom Teachers. by Marilyn Friend and William D. Bursick. How practical this really is, I am not sure since I am not in a classroom trying to meet the needs of both average students, delayed students, gifted students and students with behavioral or other needs. I find it slow reading — so far I am about three chapters in after a month. I won’t finish it before my classes start, that is for sure. There is a lot of information in this book, which, though 6 years since the last revision date, is still fairly current. This book goes over definitions, how various federal laws impact service delivery, how funding affects what schools can offer their students… among other topics. There are some sections that deal with specific needs such as autism, or gifted/talented, or health issues. And there is a heavy emphasis on how a regular classroom teacher can make reasonable adaptations to curriculum and with classroom management to accomodate children’s needs. I also appreciate the discussions about how the classroom teacher can (and should) work with other professionals in the schools, as well as the clear reminder that a principal, a parent or a counselor cannot simply tell a teacher to do something without adequate support to and feedback from the teacher. This textbook, like so many today, has additional offerings online and includes website information along with other reference information. found for $4 at the local Goodwill store

  • The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles

    by Julie Andrews Edwards. I am halfway through this book. It is, so far, a wonderfully fun, rollicking tale that would appeal to many children. I like that she used some pretty big words and new scientific ideas — especially for the time it was written about 25 years ago. The descriptions are vivid and fun. Still, it is decidedly a children’s fantasy book. Scholastic booksale ~~~I finished it that same night. It was sweet. A great bedtime story for kids! And tired mamas.

Avast! Klutz does it again!

Posted by on 08 Jul 2007 | Tagged as: blogposts, book review, children, fun, pirates, Uncategorized

I am a big fan of the Klutz books for kids and adults. Not just about juggling now, they have branched out to other activities. From string figures and knot-tying to activity sets, they seem to have a knack for the things that make kids happy to think.

The latest cool Klutz books we have seen are their “building cards” sets. My mother purchased one for each of our kids for a summertime quiet activity. The younger got the one for pirate ships, and we just finished putting it together. Here are some pics of him, thoroughly engaged on a warm summer afternoon.

Klutz activity book pic

Klutz activity book pic

Klutz activity book pic

Klutz activity book pic

As you can see, he is completely interested, engaged and HAPPY! (insert proud mama smile here) A video of happy kid is also available on the page I keep for all things piratical… Pirate Ship in Action.

I highly recommend Klutz products. Well thought-out, very fun. The ISBN for this kit is 1-57054-228-7.

Last but not least, every pirate needs his dog. Here’s our Scally-Wag!

One Lucky Dog!

book review: Fancy Nancy

Posted by on 05 Apr 2007 | Tagged as: book review, Uncategorized

Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Connor, pictures by Robin Preiss Glasser

This is my new all-time favorite WOW book for preschool through early elementary. Though it is about a little girl who likes all the traditional girly things, it should appeal to everyone who dreams sometimes of being more than average.

I bought it at the school book fair yesterday — just for me because the cover made me happy.

This gets an unqualified YES from me!

update 13 Apr… I read this for my mother’s first grade class yesterday, and they enjoyed it as much as I did!

book review: A Walk in the Woods

Posted by on 04 Apr 2007 | Tagged as: book review, Uncategorized

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

This was an interesting book in many ways, a little vulgar at times — actually very crude at times, and written in a somewhat pedantic though conversational tone. He does recount some amusing anecdotes, a few of his own, a few passed on from other sources, but in order to give them “flavor” he often felt the need to use four-letter words and imagery that would be right at home in a high-school boys’ locker room.

And, while I always enjoy books that are based on facts and science or history, or demographics, he spends (no, I haven’t counted the pages) at least 15% of the space giving data. So the book ends up reading at times like a paper on crime or habitat destruction and at other times like a historical treatise and only occasionally flowing along like a good friend telling of his most recent outdoor adventure. In short, unless you are yourself a hiker, have hiked part (or all) of the Appalachians or feel the need to plough through a rustic reminiscence… I would go back to a classic author and give this a miss.

It’s not a horrible book, but not one I can recommend. I’ll give it a two “mediocre” rating.

book review: The Ship Who Searched

Posted by on 25 Mar 2007 | Tagged as: book review, Uncategorized

The Ship Who Searched by Anne McCaffrey and Mercedes Lackey

Was a good book. It flowed, in the way I remember (it had been a few years since I had read a new Anne McCaffrey book), and it had a lot of neat twists and turns.

Until about 2/3 of the way through the book, when it felt the authors were trying to tie up loose ends in order to finish the book. It ended a little too quickly, not as cleanly as I would have like — left a couple of unanswered details, and not as satisfying as I had expected.

I am still interested in reading the other books in this series, but have to find them. I recommend this book to folks who like science fiction or Anne McCaffrey and Mercedes Lackey, but only as a diversion, not as a truly good read. Which makes me sad, because both of these authors are capable of pulling a story together in a way which keeps it within the word/page limit and still honors the tale.

Three so-so thumbs up.

book review: My Life in France

Posted by on 16 Mar 2007 | Tagged as: book review, Uncategorized

read this book!read this book!read this book!

My Life in France by Julia Child/Alex Prud’homme is well worth the time spent savoring her memories in the same way a visit with an elderly relative brightens both your days. Though Mrs. Child died just before publication, the book reads the way she spoke to people; her nephew (great-nephew) did a wonderful job. I savored this book, as one should a fine wine or exquisite confection.

The story begins with a quick overview of her life up to the time she met her husband, Paul Child, and kicks into gear with her stormy introduction to France. It was a dark and rainy night… her first taste of real french cooking (at a small inn in Normandy) and her introduction to life in post-war Paris as the wife of a U.S. diplomat.

She shares her rudimentary newlywed culinary skills with the reader, her growing desire to learn to cook the marvelous foods they were served at every restaurant, and her eventual enrollment at the Cordon Bleu school — her trials and tribulations, determination and successes are all there.

For me, it was her descriptions of her friends and family that really brought the book to life. Without Chef Bugnard, she would never have received her coveted certificate from the Cordon Bleu. Without Simca and Louisette, she would not have ventured into teaching or writing. Without PBS (Public Broadcasting in the United States), she might never have become the household icon we remember.

Along the way, she drops hints to those of us who enjoy cookery — her methods and the way she thought about cooking as well as a few tidbits of recipes.

A minor annoyance to me was her somewhat frequent inclusion of French words and phrases with no explanation. My command of French is shaky, and I resorted to a dictionary a couple times. It made the book flow less smoothly for me, though I am sure it was as natural for her to switch from one language to another as it was to whip up an omelet…

But that was, really, a minor annoyance, given the pleasure of reading a book as instantly familiar as a new-found friend.

book review: Heroics for Beginers

Posted by on 06 Mar 2007 | Tagged as: book review, Uncategorized

Heroics for Beginners by John Moore is a silly little novel with clever twists and turns, some good humor and some rather adolescent inclusions of naughtiness. I would not recommend this for people with any hang-ups about sex or sexual practices (though those parts are few they seem to occur gratuitously and interrupt the flow of the story enough to be intrusive), and for that reason wouldn’t allow my kids to read it until they are at least 16.

It was a quick read (about 2 hours), so good for a lazy afternoon or waiting for planes, trains, kids at activities, or before going to sleep.

I would give this a single “good” rating.

book review: A Pilgrim’s Progress

Posted by on 03 Mar 2007 | Tagged as: book review, Uncategorized

A Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan may be a classic read by dozens of generations of protestant Christians, but it is not a subtle or clever read for a person of the modern age who does not take the Bible literally.

I decided to stop reading it because I can see where it is headed. If I were interested in the medieval morality plays this might be something to delve into, as it is clearly based on the grand tradition of storytelling by travelling troupes of actors.

So this one also is going into the give-away pile. It feels good to move on. Now I can concentrate on the other books in my reading pile…

book review: A History of the Arab Peoples

Posted by on 03 Mar 2007 | Tagged as: book review, Uncategorized

A History of the Arab Peoples by Albert Hourani was taking me too long. So I decided to not finish it. Though I have no doubt it was accurate, it was not my style of writing. Read more like a dissertation than a book.

The last time I had an experience like this with a book, it really took the joy out of reading. And as I explained to my Tom, if it’s not fun, and not something I have to read… then I am not going to!

So I wouldn’t recommend this book unless a person were doing a report or study of some kind and needed the information. It is not really something that it makes sense to read from front to back.

Kate Remembered

Posted by on 02 Dec 2006 | Tagged as: book review, Uncategorized

I just finished Kate Remembered, by A. Scott Berg.

I really like Katharine Hepburn — she has fascinated me for all my life — playing such strong, independent women. Feminine — but never femme, never weepy or clingy.

This book is worth reading, though its rambling style can be a bit difficult at first (seems each chapter begins on a different topic and all of them end up interweaving), it seems to imitate the way conversations between close associates flow. Details about her likes and dislikes, her personal indiosyncracies and speech patterns come through very clearly. Though some detail is provided about her friends and companions through the years, it is ultimately and decidedly about Katharine Hepburn, whom the author knew during the last two decades of her life.

If someone gives you this book or you see it at a reduced price, and you have some time to kill, or if you are a real fanatic about the famous actress, read it. Otherwise, you might prefer to let this one go.