Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Review: 14 Cows for America

14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy, in collaboration with Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah and illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez.

Summary from Goodreads:

In June of 2002, a very unusual ceremony begins in a far-flung village in western Kenya.
An American diplomat is surrounded by hundreds of Maasai people. A gift is about to be bestowed on the American men, women, and children, and he is there to accept it. The gift is as unsought and unexpected as it is extraordinary.
A mere nine months have passed since the September 11 attacks, and hearts are raw. Tears flow freely from American and Maasai as these legendary warriors offer their gift to a grieving people half a world away.
Word of the gift will travel news wires around the globe. Many will be profoundly touched, but for Americans, this selfless gesture will have deeper meaning still. For a heartsick nation, the gift of fourteen cows emerges from the choking dust and darkness as a soft light of hope and friendship. 
I came across it by chance and, because I was curious about the title, I sat down to read it. This is one of the most powerful children's books I have read in years. Beautifully illustrated and with a heart warming message, 14 Cows is a book that I believe should be in every classroom. A message of love and compassion from the Maasai people for Americans in response to the attacks on September 11th that proves that, even though we have so many differences, empathy can still exist and thrive between our people.
Even if you have not been affected directly by the events of September 11th, this story will still resonate strongly with you. Give it a try and I am sure that you will find it as beautiful as I did.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Making reading fun using The Hunger Games

For any and all teachers out there, check out this amazing website that contains lesson plans for making reading fun using contemporary young adult and children's novels in the classroom. Here is an introduction to Teach.com written by Michelle Manno.

Does popular fiction have a place in the classroom? How can we harness students’ interests to keep them engaged and active participants in their learning? We look to The Hunger Games.

The success of this young adult series is no secret. Now a multi-million dollar movie franchise, Collins’ stories of post-apocalyptic Panem have engaged readers of all shapes and sizes. Aside from the sci-fi trilogy’s entertaining moments, The Hunger Games Is also full of valuable teaching moments.

Teach.com and Hunger Games Lessons have partnered up to create “Sparking Their Interest – Engaging Students with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” – a collection of creative teaching resources that demonstrate the important role of pop culture in education, providing innovative Common Core-aligned activities for using The Hunger Games in the classroom.

Hunger Games Lessons was created by Tracee Orman, a high school English teacher who immediately recognized the educational value of the series. Teach.com is an educational resource that is dedicated to the discovery and engagement of great teaching around the world. They work closely with USC Rossier Online, a top-ranked teacher preparation program from the University of Southern California, and are strong advocates of providing teachers with creative and innovative resources for teaching in the 21st century.

Aligning your curriculum with student interests is a key in keeping students motivated and engaged in the classroom. Integrating popular literature across content areas is a valuable teaching tool, allow students to strengthen their comprehension skills through material that is engaging and accessible. These skills are especially valuable under the Common Core Standards, which reinforce English-Language Arts skills in all subject areas.

Scroll through the guide and see how you can use The Hunger Games and popular culture in your classroom!

Sparking Their Interest-Engaging Students With Catching Fire

Michelle Manno is an Associate Editor at Teach.com where she writes about education reform, disability advocacy, and pop culture pedagogy. Join the @teachdotcom community on Twitter.

I have looked through several of the lesson plans and, while I'm not a teacher, I know that I would have loved these class activities as a student instead of trying to understand how the book Great Expectations related to my life and why I should even care what Pip was going through. Take a look through the lesson plans and through the blog and I can guarantee you will find some new things to incorporate in your classroom. Happy hunting!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Throwback Thursday

Taking a look at some of the books I read as a kid, I'm going to bring one of my favorites up every Thursday.

To kick it all off, here's Todd Strasser's Help! I'm Trapped in Obedience School.

After Andy presses the wrong button on a weird machine and turns into a dog, his friend Jake tries to help him turn back into a human. 

This is one of the books in Strasser's Help! I'm Trapped in... series and I must have read this book at least 50 times as a kid. Even at the 50th read, I would laugh out loud at the same scenes as the first, and 10+ years later, I have a feeling I still would. 

Actually, I wonder if I still have this book stashed somewhere...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Review: 13 to Life

13 to Life by Shannon Delany.

Summary from Goodreads.

Everything about Jessie Gillmansen’s life changed when her mother died. Now even her hometown of Junction is changing.  Mysterious dark things are happening. All Jessie wants is to avoid more change. But showing a hot new guy around Junction High, she’s about to discover a whole new type of change. Pietr Rusakova is more than good looks and a fascinating accent—he’s a guy with a dangerous secret. And his very existence is sure to bring big trouble to Jessie’s small town.

It seems change is the one thing Jessie can’t avoid.


I picked this book up for two reasons. One: I love werewolves. They're my favorite supernatural beastie and so if I see a book on them, I have to snatch it up. Two: Shannon Delany is totally awesome and since I've known her for a while now, I realized I hadn't read her books and I should totally change that. So glad I did!

A super quick read, Shannon writes with humor and an honesty that feels true to a teen voice. Jessie's history isn't known right away, that comes gradually through the book but I liked it better that way. The Rusakova family is fascinating and lots of fun as the reader dives further into the book.

This series is fast-paced and lots of fun to read with some unexpected twists. Well worth a look and the series just keeps getting better and better. Can't wait to learn more about the Rusakovas, Jessie and their friends.

Also: the little mentions of Twilight for explanations? Hilarious.

Received through interlibrary loan.

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